In this anthology, John Brockman brings together essays from leading cosmologists who are seeking to unravel the origin and future of the cosmos. Theoretical physicists such as Alan Guth, Peter Steinhardt, Andrei Linde, Lisa Randall, Brian Greene and others. Unfortunately, The Universe does not explore these topics in depth, but reveals academia as a battleground of conflicting ideas and individual positions.
The essays assume that readers have a fairly deep understanding of cosmology, string theory, quantum mechanics and the standard model of matter. I was frustrated by the casual swapping and inconsistent use of terminology employed by the authors. Several articles talk about the inflationary model that explains the initial conditions of the universe after the Big Bang, but they fail to provide the necessary detail, assuming readers will be familiar with various inflationary theories. Where confusion rears up is that the process of inflation creates other universes which we cannot observe because they are beyond the observable horizon of our universe; they are separate universes with their own physical conditions and laws, creating a multiverse. Well, if they are separate universes, they cannot exist within our universe, but authors of some essays don’t make this distinction, hence the confusion.
Add arguments by string theorists trying to merge general relativity with quantum mechanics, having failed so far, I was left scratching my head, wondering what is really going on, leaving me with a strong impression that these eminent cosmologists don’t really know what is going on either. Throwing into the mix concepts of dark matter and dark energy, which are very much contrived add-ons in an attempt to explain a supposedly accelerated expansion of our universe – for which there are a number of detractors, suggesting that this acceleration can be resolved by modifying Newton’s laws of motion – I suggest will leave many readers just as confused, and unsatisfied. The Universe is not an exploration of the cosmos, but a glimpse into personalities studying it. For an excellent treatment of these issues, readers should look at The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene. That is a book you can really get your teeth into!
This book is available on Amazon.